So you’ve been looking at some beautiful art tiles that would look lovely in your kitchen. The question is, are they suitable for a kitchen backsplash? Some gorgeous tiles look as if they might absorb water and other liquids, which means they would stain easily. Nobody wants that problem for their kitchen backsplash!
Will kitchen backsplash tiles absorb water? Yes, no, and maybe! It all depends on what tiles you choose.
The terms vitreous and nonvitreous are used to indicate the density and porosity of a tile. These characteristics determine how likely a tile is to absorb water. Tile manufacturers rate tiles in four categories.
Nonvitreous tiles are very porous, so they will easily absorb water. The standard absorption rate is 7 per cent of the tile’s weight or greater. These are not a good choice for a kitchen backsplash tile. If your heart is set on a nonvitreous tile, be sure to use a good sealer, and be prepared to reapply it frequently.
Semivitreous tiles can be used for most indoor applications. The absorption rate is between 3 percent and 7 per cent by weight. If you use semivitreous tile for a kitchen backsplash, a sealer is helpful.
Vitreous tiles are very dense and not at all porous. They are resistant to stains and absorb very little water. Absorptions rates are between 0.5 per cent and 3 per cent. Vitreous tiles are an excellent choice for kitchen backsplash tiles.
Impervious tiles are very dense. Water absorption is at a rate lower than 0.5 per cent. These tiles can be used in the wettest locations — even in showers or outdoors, if you like.
If you aren’t sure about the rating of a tile, you can easily estimate it yourself. Put a few drops of water on the back of the tile (not the glazed or finished surface). If the water soaks in quickly, the tile is nonvitreous. If the water beads up instead of absorbing, the tile is vitreous.
You’ll have to use a sealer if you have your heart set on a nonvitreous or semivitreous. Using a sealer on the grout will make your life easier even if you choose an impervious tile.
Several kinds of sealer are available. The toughest ones form a surface film over the tile and grout, but they can darken the surface and leave a glossy sheen. Sealers called impregnators soak into the surface and fill the pores of tile and grout. They are a little less durable but are also less likely to alter the appearance of the tile. Some surfaces require a special kind of sealer — slate sealers, for example, contain adhesives. Check with your supplier to determine what sealer is required for your tile.